Experts say that about every 10 years, there is a disruptive market event (the World Trade Center bombing in 2001, the housing crash of 2008/2009, and the global pandemic we’re in now). I remain financially confident because I’ve been through a couple of these…and other “financial fails” to know that I won’t be defeated by any market event.
In 2007, I thought I was ready to upgrade from my starter condo. I wanted a cool loft, closer to my job. I wanted a new neighborhood and a new scene. I called my mortgage broker (he was definitely on my Financial A-Team in Chicago). He said, “I don’t recommend you buy anything over $250k but the craziest thing is that I could get you qualified for a loan for $417k!” Yes, that was crazy and I didn’t take it.
A few months later, I quit my job. It was my first job out of college and my dream job where I thought I would work forever. I quit without having a new job.
I was unemployed for about three months (side note: nobody has ever asked me about the breaks in my career when interviewing for new jobs). The first month I was antsy. And I had quite a bit of free time to blame others for my unhappiness in my job. The anger then turned to fear that I wasn’t going to be able to figure out what to do next, I wasn’t going to get a job with a good salary, I wasn’t going to be able to pay my mortgage. It sucked, it was scary.
I did find a great next job that was so different from my first job but also allowed me to use my skills and experience.
I also sold my starter condo and bought another property in June 2008. A brand new townhouse in a new subdivision in the burbs for $259k with 5% down. It was an upgrade and I was living large.
In 2009, I went on a mission trip to Peru. It was my second trip there. I loved being there and the work they were doing. While I was down there, they asked if I would move to Peru and work with them. It was the chance of a lifetime and I wanted to make it work. I had to sell my townhouse and the market was softening. It took me two months, a $30k price drop, and I had to bring $5k to closing. I was completely stressing out. Real estate was supposed to be this solid investment (and I do believe that it is a solid long-term investment). I was competing against a developer selling brand new townhouses, the auto industry was going through bankruptcy, and the housing market hadn’t recovered. I took the hit and brought $5k to closing. And left to go work at a non-profit in Peru for 7 months at the beginning of 2010.
I also remember seeing my 401(k) drop in half from $39k to $21k.
So…unemployment, a retirement account that was decimated, and a loss in real estate. It was scary and stressful. But looking back, I learned great lessons. I was also appreciative to have that lesson in my 20s instead of in my 50s or 60s. I knew I would have the time to rebound. I would make money back in real estate (I definitely have), I would build back my retirement accounts (I have). I would get more jobs with better pay and greater responsibilities (that happened too). I felt confident I was smart enough and had enough time to still hit my retirement goals.
Now, in 2020, my retirement goals are bigger and sooner. And, if you look at my memo from last month, you’ll see what hit me in the first week of shelter in place (from the immediate loss of income to a real estate transaction in limbo). I’m confident I’m going to get through this. We all are going to get through this. I’ve been through a recession before. I learned lessons and was better prepared for this one. I am going to keep learning and be even more prepared for future market events and confidently go through them with my solid emergency fund, money mantras about being a long-term investor, and confidence that I can make the right money moves at the right time for me.
Do you remember the recession of 2008 and want to share your experience? Drop a comment below. Anytime you were out of work for a while and bounced back? Any other scary financial challenges you have overcome? Sharing our experiences is powerful.